52 Book Pick up: January update!

A month ago I said I was going to read 52 books in 2013. I can happily report I have been reading voraciously since I set this goal and am currently a little ahead of schedule. I have to admit I’m a bit worried my enthusiasm will wane in the coming months, but right nw I want to share my thoughts on some of the cool stuff I’ve been reading recently.

1. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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There’s very little I say about this which hasn’t been said already. I enjoyed the read and may dip into some of the lesser known follow-ups at some point.

2. Mr Blue: Memoirs Of A Renegade by Edward Bunker

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What a great, life-affirming read. In case you don’t know, Edward Bunker was an American convict turned author, generally agreed to be responsible for some of the best crime fiction ever written. He also turned his hand to cinema, as a consultant, screenwriter and some-time actor. As far as the latter goes, he’s best known for playing Mr Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs; hence the title of this book, his autobiography. Mr Blue contains many fascinating tales of the American prison system, chronicling Bunker’s chaotic criminal career and the gradual mellowing of his proud and rebellious spirit. Despite the fact he spent such a considerable portion of his life behind bars, the intensity of his experiences will have you questioning what you’ve done with your life.

3. Die Trying by Lee Child

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Die Trying is the second book in the Jack Reacher series, which is popular with a number of my friends. I got confused and read this before the first, Killing Floor, but it doesn’t seem to matter a great deal.

I have to be honest, it was an easy read and took less than a week to finish, but I wasn’t impressed. The biggest failing for me was the implausibility, not just with regards to the plot, which was riddled with crazy coincidences, but also the actions of the key characters. They make so many bizarre, counterintuitive decisions that I found it hard to read without getting frustrated by Child’s literary slackness.

4. Plunder Of The Sun by David Dodge

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I’m not going to say much about this brilliant, pulpy crime novel, other than that I was gripped and read it in a couple of days. They made it into a film with Glenn Ford and I’m told it is quite good, but I have yet to watch it. This was easily one of the best titles I have read published under the Hard Case Crime imprint.

5. Mankind: Have a Nice Day! A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley

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Mr Blue was such a great autobiography, I wasn’t expecting to read anything of comparable quality for quite a while. As a result, Have a Nice Day was a very pleasant surprise. To tell the truth, I had already read Mick Foley’s second autobiographical work, Foley is Good, but had forgotten what a good writer he can be; this had been sitting unread in a stack in my bedroom for several years. Also, Have a Nice Day was his first book and it features all his best stories, as you might expect. The behind-the-scenes insights would have been enough to hook wrestling fans, but Foley’s personal journey from dorky wrestler wannabe to self-styled “Hardore Legend” gave Have a Nice Day far broader appeal and made this a best seller. Foley’s personality comes through clearly in his writing, which, although full of humour, is heartfelt, touching and inspirational. To me at least.

On a side note, I got the extended version, but felt the bonus content detracted a little from the great ending in the original print.

6. The Red Scarf by Gil Brewer

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Prior to The Red Scarf, I the only Gil Brewer book I had read was The Vengeful Virgin, which is published by Hard Case Crime. Brewer’s hard-boiled fiction usually involves an ordinary man succumbing to a combination of lust and greed, and The Red Scarf was a typical doom-laden affair.

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